Monday, November 24, 2008

Giving Thanks

I'm thankful that Mom fixed pork chops and fried potatoes and coleslaw for dinner last night because John is home. Even at 89, she thinks that if she doesn't feed him, he'll wither away to nothing. He's 40 year old now, 6 foot tall, weighing in at around 220. He's in no danger of withering, with or without Grandma's cooking, but she likes to believe she is all that stands between him and starvation. I'm thankful that she remains healthy and motivated enough to want to flour pork chops and peel potatoes and shred cabbage and stand over a stove. And she will not hear of anyone else doing dishes. It is HER kitchen - get out! I'll be equally thankful if I've inherited her genes.

I'm thankful Jimmie Johnson won his third straight championship in NASCAR. Jimmie, in particular, and NASCAR, in general, provided me with hours of pleasure over the last half of the season when I turned into and onto auto racing. The first week of December is Champions Week when all the winners will be celebrating, and getting their pay-offs, in New York. Jimmie will receive over $7,000,000. Carl Edwards made even more. Even the drivers who were in the lower ranks of winners earned in the millions. I've listened on the radio about how many lay-offs there have been in NASCAR, which is suffering a serious downturn like other segments of our economy. The public handing over of enormous checks strikes me as a little unseemly in the circumstances . It would sure be a generous gesture if these guys offered to kick some significant dollars back into a fund to assist NASCAR employees who have lost their jobs as part of their own giving of thanks.

I'll be thankful when Obama finally takes over. I wish it was going to be today instead of January 20. You have the feeling that the Bush administration is as clueless about what to do to help America's financial crisis as they were about Katrina. "You're doing a hell of a job, Hank!" (Hank Paulsen, that is, Bush's economic head guy). They gave the banking industry $750 billion and didn't seem to put any restrictions on how that money was to be spent or even any requirements to account for it. Barack may not get everything right but at least you feel his fresh, young administration will put some passion and effort into doing something to try to get us back on track.

I'm thankful that my favorite authors keep writing wonderful books. I've also discovered some terrific new authors this year and they've led me down some new paths. I first read Iain Banks' novels and because I got such pleasure from them, I followed him into science fiction (which he writes as Iain M Banks), a genre I thought I hated, only to change my mind in my 60's. I've always liked Robert B. Parker's Spencer series but now I like his westerns (Appaloosa, being the latest) even better. Augustin Burroughs' bitter, funny, witty memoirs (Dry, Running with Scissors) are now at the top of my reading list - and through Burroughs, I discovered David Sedaris. From Ken Bruen (Jack Taylor, alcoholic ex-cop and accidental detective), I learned to love black Irish mysteries and from Bruen, it was a natural jump to Declan Hughes. These were all in addition to my old faithfuls - David Fulmer, Lawrence Block, Lee Child, Jamie Lee Burke, Richard Montenari, Reginald Hill, Ian Rankin, Martha Grimes, Elizabeth George, Manette Walters, Peter Robinson, Charles Todd - I could go on and on....

I'm thankful I keep being able to write books myself although whether they are wonderful or not, I have no idea, since it is rather difficult for me to be objective and no agent and/or publisher seems interested in finding out. Nevertheless, my own characters have sparked my enthusiasm and given me something creative with which to while away my time rather than, say, playing scrabble on the computer. And other fascinations have flowed from the research I've done. I became enthralled with both Ireland and NASCAR as a direct result of my own writing.

I'm thankful for my job, both for the paycheck, and the insights it brings. If I sometimes think my own life isn't where I wish it was, my clients show me how much worse off I could be. They come to me with an endless list of heartaches, some of their own making and some not. They are where they are because of luck (lack of) or fate or trusting too much or not looking high enough or far enough ahead. Some of their situations are unique and some are everyday common. Some were "handwriting on the wall" foreseeable and some struck with the unexpectedness of a tornado. Some are determined to overcome and others are thoroughly beaten. I try to help and sometimes do but the fact is, there are more needs than there are resources for meeting those needs. I try to see the glass as a third full rather than two/thirds empty.

I'm thankful for my attorneys who do pro bono cases for me with no motivation except the satisfaction of helping people, some who aren't as grateful as they should be. Without their generosity of time and spirit, I'd have no job and my clients would have no hope at all.

I'm thankful for the beauty of the Hoosier countryside as I travel my many miles a month for work. From the pastels of spring to summer's deepest greens, from the gilt and scarlet of autumn to today's beige and mahogany and bronze. I'll try to be thankful when the crystalline white snows of winter take over although I'll have to work a little harder at it.